From the beginning he knew only scientifically based research and field testing could produce the kind of planting he was searching for. And if he presented his planting to the hunting public it would have to pass rigorous, real-life regional testing as well.
It was with a lot of curiosity he launched the Whitetail Institute in 1988 after he had purchased a modest residence and 50 acres near his own home in a small rural community south of Montgomery, Ala.
Already on the track of a promising clover forage, he decided to satisfy his personal curiosity once and for all about the effects of nutrition on quality whitetails. He obtained permits to import 19 fawns from Montana and Alberta, Canada. The historically bigger northern fawns were tagged and combined with an equal number of smaller tagged Alabama fawns.
The fawns ate the very same forage including the experimental clover blend, which was highly preferred by all the deer. Every fall the deer were weighed and antlers measured. In the first year, the northern deer were notably larger and antlers bigger and heavier. But the gap closed dramatically the next year and continued to do so.
Scott didn't need any more convincing. It was obvious hunters had two powerful tools at their fingertips for producing quality whitetail - nutrition and age. He was more determined than ever to continue research on the promising clover formula - one that would supply high-protein levels all through the year, especially during the critical 150 - 200 day antler-growing period.
His mission was simple and clear: improve the quality of whitetail deer through improved nutrition. And he had a method as well. His first product - and all future products - would be thoroughly researched and tested to be effective before it ever reached the public. And not just in controlled conditions, but in real-life situations on wild, free-ranging deer.
This was why Imperial Whitetail Clover - the Institute's first ground-breaking product - was seven years in research and testing. And it would set the stringent standard for the research and development of all future Whitetail Institute products.
Now that Scott had a motive and a mission, he began constructing the Institute's research facilities. He knew that to develop the best nutritional products on the market, he would have to have top-quality research facilities and staff. He spared no expense and effort in putting together one of the best research facilities in the country.
The residence quickly became an office. And on the surrounding acres a network of small enclosures was created. These enclosures range from one-half acre to one acre in size and are designed to hold captive deer and allow for the physical handling of deer to acquire data such as body weights and antler size. All of the small pens are interconnected with a gating system that can hold the entire herd in selected pens or hold different groups of animals in separate areas to conduct comparison research.
For research activities that require immobility of the animals (such as weight checks and antler harvesting) and to perform regular veterinary services, another separate facility was constructed as part of the small pen network that contains a veterinarian lab, fawn-rearing pens and holding pens.
In the second phase of the research facility construction, a high-fence area was created where 'semi-wild' studies could be performed. Two separate areas were built - one consisting of 80 acres and the other 100 acres. These semi-wild enclosures provide an intermediate step between small-penned areas and wild areas. These enclosures provide the opportunity to capture specific animals when necessary and retrieve data on specific animals at the same time allowing the deer to function in a more natural environment.
Finally, because deer hunters and managers would use the Whitetail Institute's products on wild, free-ranging deer, a 2,300-acre wild deer testing area was developed. At this facility all developmental products are tested on non-fenced, 100 percent free-ranging deer.
While the facilities were being built, Ray and his early partner, wildlife biologist Randall Rogers, set out to assemble a team of researchers with the expertise and knowledge to develop the exclusive, deer-specific nutrition products that Scott envisioned.
Over the years, the Institute has put together the best research staff in the deer nutrition industry with a perfect blend of scientific knowledge and common sense thinking. While the Institute was determined to be on the leading edge of nutritional science, it also wanted products that are practical in their usage and application.
It was not long before Scott had added one of the country's leading plant geneticists to his staff through a remarkable series of coincidences.
Scott had discovered his deer were highly attracted to a clover he had been testing in his own food plots and he was ready to track down its origins. To his complete surprise, the clover had been developed in his very own backyard and alma mater, Auburn University. The developer was none other than Auburn agronomist Dr. Wiley Johnson. During his 35-year career at Auburn, Johnson had developed several new forage varieties, many of which are still widely used today. It wasn't long before the enthusiastic Scott had added Johnson to his team as Director of Forage Research.
About the same time, Brent Camp came on board as the Institute Nutrition Director specializing in supplements. He brought over 35 years practical experience in the feed and supplement business and helped create the popular Imperial 30-06 Mineral/Vitamin supplements.
Later, Matt Harper, a graduate of Iowa State University in Animal Science and Ruminant Nutrition, was added to staff as the Whitetail Institute Deer Nutrition Specialist. Harper has extensive experience in the development of mineral/ vitamin supplements and nutritional supplements for exotic ruminants, especially whitetail deer. He would become the architect of the groundbreaking product, Cutting Edge.
More recently, wildlife biologist Rodney Dyer joined the staff. Dyer is also a graduate of Auburn University and has done extensive research with food plots as a plantation manager and technician at Auburn and while employed as a research coordinator at the University of Georgia.
Other members of the research staff include product consultants John White, J.B. Smith and Paul Register. Finally, the Institute's weed and herbicide specialist is Dr. Carroll Johnson of the Coastal Plain Experiment Station in Tifton, Georgia.
All together, the research staff at the Whitetail Institute has more than 15 college degrees and combined experience of more than 150 years in deer nutrition-related work.
THE RESEARCH PROCESS
With the marriage of top-quality facilities and an outstanding staff, great things were about to happen at the Institute. The first product from the fledgling organization, Imperial Whitetail Clover, is now a legend in the deer management industry.
As a matter of fact, its unqualified success was the impetus for the birth of a whole new outdoor industry - whitetail nutrition. The development of Imperial Clover is a case study for vision, perseverance, and complete dedication to scientific research and testing. Its painstaking formulation became the blueprint for all food plot and nutrition products developed at the Institute.
When Dr. Johnson joined the Institute staff, Ray Scott gave him an open-ended commission: create the ideal whitetail deer forage no matter what it took or how long it took. Johnson accepted the challenge.
He began the process by selecting various clover species from all around the world and the U.S. In all, more than 40 species were selected and planted in test fields. Each clover variety was individually marked for identification and examined and tested for specifically selected traits. The desired traits were those that were most vital for a whitetail deer food plot: nutrient content (i.e. protein), drought resistance, cold tolerance, seedling vigor, digestibility, growth, yield and attractiveness to deer, to name a few.
The clover varieties were put under stress conditions, chemically analyzed and planted both in Institute pens and in the wild testing facility to test attractiveness. The clover varieties that showed the best results were then taken to the green house and cross-pollinated. The resulting seeds from the cross-pollination were in turn planted and similar testing followed on the next generation of plants. This entire process was then repeated until one genetically superior variety of clover was developed that contained all the traits essential for the perfect whitetail deer food plot.
The entire process took over seven years to complete and required thousands of research hours and dollars. The result, however, was the development of the first and only forage variety genetically developed specifically for whitetail deer food plots.
Unlike other products on the market that were plant varieties taken from other applications such as cattle or horse production, Imperial Whitetail Clover remains the only product created specifically for whitetail deer. This revolutionary clover was 'designed' to provide up to 30-35 percent protein year round, stay green year round, offer unequalled attractiveness to deer and last for up to five years or more without re-seeding.
Another revolutionary Institute product, Cutting Edge, was developed in much the same way. Deer nutrition specialist Matt Harper was encouraged to pursue his vision of a seasonal supplement for whitetail deer. He knew the life cycle of whitetail varied dramatically based on the time of the year with corresponding physiological changes and stresses in bucks, does and fawns. He theorized that since nutritional needs had to vary as well, supplements should vary accordingly. A one-size-fits-all supplement could be improved upon for those hunters and managers wanting to fine-tune their nutritional programs. He set the research wheels in motion.
Many combinations and amounts of ingredients were tested to identify the one combination that supplied the appropriate nutrient profile that was the most digestible and the most attractive or palatable to deer. Work began in the small pens and once the proper formulas were identified, testing moved to the 'semi-wild' enclosures and from there to the wild deer testing facility.
Like Imperial Whitetail Clover, the development of Cutting Edge took several years and more than once the formulas were taken back to the drawing board after they had made it through phase I and II, but not phase III. Finally, after years of work, Cutting Edge came to the market in December of 1999. Three different formulas were offered - each matching the life cycle needs of whitetail deer. It was another revolutionary product from the Whitetail Institute of North America.
The concept had frankly been a gamble for the Institute. It was a new idea and it would require considerable 'education' and explaining to the deer management public. It was not a 'quick-fix' product and would not appeal to every hunter and manager. However, Harper and Steve Scott had faith in the product - and faith in the dedication of Institute customers. The Institute had succeeded in the past by NOT underestimating the dedication of its customers. And they were right. The concept of seasonal supplements caught on and today Cutting Edge testimonials flow in from hunters all over the country.
As with all Whitetail Institute products, the very final testing hurdle rests with Institute field testers.
Once a product has made it through the gamut of testing at the Institute, it is sent out to locations known as Certified Satellite Research Stations. CSRS's are specific field testers who have proven themselves over many years of field testing and who have agreed to comply with a stringent list of functions and specifications while testing products.
The CSRS's form a network of areas distributed equally across the U.S. All products brought to market by the Whitetail Institute must make it through in-house testing and CSRS's before they are ever made available to the public. This network of testers is not duplicated in any other company in the deer nutrition industry.
RESEARCH NEVER ENDS
Research remains the number one focus at the Whitetail Institute. At this moment, more than 15 different research projects are in the works. The Institute is always in tune with the wants and needs of deer hunters and deer managers everywhere thanks to its network of field testers and the staff consultants who are in touch with hunters on a daily basis.
Research never ends for the existing products as well. There is always room for improvement. With this philosophy, the patented Golden Jumpstartª was added to all seed products to promote fast initial growth to attract deer right away. A small change, but vital to hunters. And in response to the needs of hunters and managers, regional blends of Imperial Whitetail seed products were formulated to accommodate customers dealing with different climates and soils.
In the same spirit, when customers needed a planting for drier, upland soils and hillsides, the Institute developed Imperial Alfa-Rack, an alfalfa-clover blend. Alfa-Rack was first field tested in 1992 and made available in 1998. And when customers wanted a quality seed that could be planted annually on poorer soils and without the use of farm equipment and cultivation, the highly popular Imperial No-Plow was developed.
Thanks to its dedication to research and its refusal to put any product on the market without thorough testing, the Whitetail Institute is the leader in the deer nutrition industry. And it is with a great sense of pride that the Institute has seen the quality of deer management and the quality of deer herds (and trophy bucks) improve dramatically since it developed whitetail-specific products many years ago.